Last week, thousands of librarians met in Seattle for the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. Dozens of volunteer committees met for hours and hours all weekend, after reading stacks and stacks of books all year, to decide award winners and create book lists for the benefit of librarians and readers.
One of those committees chooses titles for the Rainbow List, “…a list of recommended books dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangendered and questioning issues and situations for children up to age 18” (in the words of the ALA website). This year’s committee, a delightful and dedicated group of ten librarians from all across the country, chose a record-setting 107 books for their list.*
The Top Ten includes picture books, middle grade, and YA titles. There’s a fantasy story, a nonfiction picture book, and a graphic novel; sweet stories and thought-provoking plot lines.
The full list is even more wide-ranging. Here are a few of my favorites:
Jerome By Heart by Thomas Scotto / grades Pre-K to 3
Raphael enjoys his friendship with Jerome: they hold hands, share snacks, and do everything together. Not everyone understands their relationship, but Raphael doesn’t mind because he knows how he feels about Jerome.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake / grades 5 to 8
Twelve-year-old Ivy’s house is destroyed by a tornado and her family life is thrown into turmoil, leaving her feeling neglected. She’s feeling especially unmoored when her notebook filled with pictures of girls holding hands goes missing just as she’s trying to navigate a possible crush on a new friend. By turns tragic and touching, this gentle story is filled with lovely descriptions of Ivy’s artwork and compelling characters who surround and support Ivy during her tender first steps into adolescence.
Nate Expectations by Tim Federle / grades 6 and up
When Nate’s Broadway show closes, he’s forced to go back to his boring hometown for his freshman year of high school. But where Nate goes, drama (by any definition) is never far behind. In this perfect conclusion to a delightful trilogy, Nate discovers new talents, unexpected family history, and a surprising new friend. Readers should start with Better Nate Than Ever (in which 13-year-old Nate runs away from home to audition for the role of Elliott in ET: The Musical) and savor every awkward, painful, joyous moment of Nate’s journey through to the satisfying, happy-tears conclusion in this final volume.
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig / grades 8 and up
Rufus runs around all night in a race-against-the-clock attempt to solve a mystery that will clear his sister’s name. Twist: his ex-boyfriend is the one with a car, so the ex is along for the ride. As the two boys uncover clues and interrogate classmates, they also have plenty of drive time to dissect their failed relationship and figure out if they have a future together.
Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta / grades 9 and up
Zara moves to New York City, where she has the opportunity to play the role she’s always coveted. Unfortunately, cast and crew members begin to die under mysterious circumstances. It’s a behind-the-scenes theater tale; it’s a slow-burn murder-mystery; it’s a lesbian love story. The literary style and adult-world setting give this book the feel of an adult novel, but one that will appeal to high schoolers, especially those interested in theater arts.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan / grades 9 and up
Elliot is recruited to a magical school in a magical land when he’s 13 years old. He is intelligent, impatient, sarcastic, and not very adept with social cues, which makes him both annoying and unintentionally hilarious. Throughout his teen years, he works to upend the fantasy world’s violent ways while navigating relationships with classmates and negotiating peace with the many fascinating citizens of the Borderlands. This book, which began as an online story that just kept growing, sends up some familiar fantasy tropes and plays with gender expectations in delightful ways.
I’ll be talking about more of the Rainbow List titles in future blog posts. Visit the full 2019 Rainbow List to find the titles you’ll want to read and fall in love with.
*Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to be one of those ten librarians!